The 1940s makeshift music group of student known as the Nauseating Nine left a legacy of laughs on campus, students as fans and administration with frowns.
The group’s humble beginning can be traced back to childhood friendsÂ JoeÂ Clayton (’50) and Bill Scott (’50) growing up in Shawnee, Okla. After a move separated the childhood friends, the two were reunited when both enrolled in Abilene Christian College in 1946 to restart the friendship and start up something else.
To make a little extra money, Clayton and Scott teamed up to offer light and humorous entertainment for club meetings. With Scott on the saxophone and Clayton on the piano, the two played, sang, joked and entertained various student group gatherings.
The entertainers attracted the attention of other students who petitioned to be added to their act, leading Clayton and Scott to conduct a kind of audition in the band hall at a certain date and time.
“Exactly nine guys, including Bill and myself, showed up,” Clayton said. “After some discussion about the balance of instruments and talents, we found that we had a mixture of brass, woodwinds, bass fiddle and percussion, plus singers.”
The nine made a practice schedule and began to put together a program of jokes, gags, song parodies and semi-magic tricks.
“The raucous and off-key music we played was, even in our own estimation, nauseating,” Clayton said.
The Nauseating Nine band name was born and all they needed was a stage on which to perform.
Before the Nine came to be, Clayton said a history of hillbilly jug band student endeavors of this sort at ACC had entertained students a few times.
“The administration of the college, however, did not look with approval on that group,” he said, “because they thought the dignity of ‘Christian’ school would be compromised by such low humor and hillbilly music. They asked the group to disband and they did. This happened during my freshman year.”
Fortunately for the Nauseating Nine, not all school officials agreed with the actions of the administration toward the jug band. Clayton said one fan, Wendell Bedichek, the publicity man for the school, often received requests for student groups to provide entertainment.
“He had a notion that he could use us to quietly change the high cultural image of the school by promoting our interests off campus, rather than before student audiences,” he said.
The Nine made their first appearances before club meetings and banquets, such as the Lions Club, Kiwanis, and “wherever brother Bedichek could get us a gig.”
The final band featured Clayton on the keys, Scott playing saxophone, Freddy Waddell (baritone horn), Phil Boone (trumpet),Â Winston Lugar (drums), Tex Williams (bass fiddle), Harry Tansil (trombone),Â Kelly Martin (vocalist) and the group’s jokester Paul Moffitt. From the early existence of the band, a total of 14 men took part in “The Nine.”
For performances requiring travel, the band required an appearance fee for a percentage of the gate. Over time, enough gratuities were saved to purchase additional equipment and individual coveralls emblazoned with the band member’s instrument and Nauseating Nine name.
“By wearing these coveralls around the campus, we gained a kind of mysterious reputation since very few of the students had heard us play,” Clayton said. “We were often asked where we were playing next, and we would see some of our friends in the audience at such times.”
The group loosely based their song parodies on the Spike Jones City Slickers, a famous band nationwide during that time. Whenever The Nine heard the band was performing within a radius of 200 miles, they would attend in order to get some new ideas, Clayton said.
Since each performance was at a different place, the band created a standard outline for the program. With repeated audiences, the program would vary.
But one thing never changed.
“We played everything in the key of B-flat,” Clayton said. “My piano work was mostly rhythm and background chords. Melodies and harmony were carried by the other instruments. We hoped that there no music professionals in our audiences, who might detect the way we cheated about the key.
“Our most famous song was one that celebrated the happenings of the drugstore hangout across the street in front of the campus,” he said. “The store was owned by Ivo Woolsley. Sometimes, students could be observed trying to escape the compulsory attendance rule for Chapel.” (Breakout box)
But not everyone saw the humor in the Nauseating Nine’s anthems.
Clayton recalls Bedichek informing him of a meeting in the office of Dr. Don Morris, then president of the university, to decide whether or not to make the band an official school organization.
“We were stunned,” he said. “No member of the band had been told about the meeting, before it happened, and none had been invited to attend. We simply felt that the school had no right to make us an official organization without our consent. We still operated, independently, and the plan (to make us a school organization) failed.”
However, among students, The Nauseating Nine still reigned. The senior class (’50) hired them on for a show to raise funds for their traditional gift to the college. The gig, they were told, would be in the school auditorium with a seat capacity at about 1,500 people. Tickets sold for 50 cents, and a total of 2200 crowded in the auditorium for The Nine’s performance. The concert was standing room only and so packed, in fact, Abilene’s fire marshal was alerted and forced a closing of the doors, leaving some people outside.
Clayton said the concert turnout came as a shock to the administration of the college that the only musical organization to achieve a “standing room only” performance in that auditorium was the despised Nauseating Nine.
“No opera, chorus concert, band concert or even a visiting musical group, amateur or professional, had ever filled the auditorium to full capacity … only the ‘Nine,'” he said.
The Nine graduated several members with the Class of 1950, begging a group decision whether to rebuild or disband. Ultimately, the band breakup came when graduated members were handed diplomas.
“We thought it might encourage another group of student entertainers to take our place,” he said.
The Nine have been called back for several nostalgic appearances, but have not played since. The surviving members of the group are now in their 80s and several have passed away, said Clayton.
“It is gratifying to us to know that the memory of our college kid foolishness has lasted for over 60 years,” he said.
“Have you ever been across the street to Ivo’s?
Well, maybe just at Chapel time each day.
Where you listen to the tinkling of the pinballs,
And greet the Chapel-cutters on your way (on your way).
Oh, the breezes blowing o’er the street from Ivo’s
Are scented with cigar smoke 10 days old
And in booths behind the loud and blaring jukebox,
The gay young things in laughter waste their gold (fool’s gold)
Oh, the Dean goes there and tries to teach them his ways,
And sometimes it is futile, so they think.
But if they don’t change their ways before tomorrow,
The Dean is gonna raise a mighty stink (P.U.)
Now, if there are going to be some grades hereafter,
And somehow I am sure there’s going to be.
If you keep on going o’ver the street to Ivo’s,
Your grades could be much lower than a … D (a low-down D)”
-Nauseating Nine Chapel song